Given my recent post on baking sugar cookies, I decided to put together a more in-depth tutorial to accompany the recipe. The idea for this post is to make Valentine’s Day cookies that can be easily transported to parties and events–and, to make sugar cookies that taste amazing.
The recipe I prefer is a Williams-Sonoma cut-out cookie recipe with a sugar cookie icing that dries shiny. Because the icing dries, you are left with beautiful cookies that can be stacked if necessary. However, the icing is still soft to the touch–not hard like royal icing. To view my previous post that includes my favorite cut-out sugar cookie recipe and sugar cookie icing recipe, click HERE. Or, visit the “Recipes” tab of my blog when you’re finished reading this post.
Baking sugar cookies is a process. Therefore, I suggest that you make your dough ahead of time. Yes, making the dough only takes about 30 minutes. But, rolling it out and cutting it, then baking the cookies and decorating them takes time too. So, make the dough ahead of time and store it–wrapped in saran wrap–for up to 3 days in your fridge.
Rolled sugar cookies can become very bland when rolled out on a dusted flour surface, especially the scraps that have been rolled out a few times. So prevent an over-floured dough, roll your cookies on saran wrap. Your cookies should already be wrapped up from the cooling process, so open out that piece and lay a second piece on top of the dough. Then, roll out the dough. You’ll save prep time and clean-up time, plus your last scrap of dough will taste as good as the first.
Dip your cookie cutters in sugar or flour before cutting the dough. This will help your dough slide out of nooks and crannies of the cutter more easily–maintaining the true shape of the cookie.
Use the same cookie cutter or one of similar size for each cookie on a single sheet. This will ensure that all cookies on the sheet bake evenly and completely.
Pop your cut-out cookies in the fridge (on the baking sheet) for about 15 minutes before baking. This will help ensure that your cookies bake in the cut-out shape instead of spreading across the pan. This tip is especially important when using small cookie cutters or those with intricate details.
Bake on parchment paper. You don’t need to grease your cookie sheet when using parchment paper, so your cookies slide right off the pan without tasting of oil.
Space your cookies far enough apart that if they do “grow” a bit while baking, they don’t touch (see pic above). I usually aim for about 1 1/2 inches between cookies.
If you don’t have piping bags, don’t worry–use zip lock bags. When decorating basic sugar cookies, you only need lines. So, place your icing in a zip-lock baggie (zip it up!), and snip the corner. I use a small snip to ice the edges (see Tip #9), and a large snip to squeeze the main color on before spreading it across the cookie.
Squeeze a thin line of icing around the entire edge of the cookie. Then, let that line dry completely. One dried, you will have much more freedom to fill in the design without the risk of icing running down the edges of your cookies. In the picture below, you’ll notice two things: 1. I’m not a professional decorator. 2. The white icing around the edges of the cookies prevented run-off while allowing me to use a fair amount of fill-in icing on the cookie.
If you plan to add sprinkles or colored sugar, so do after icing each cookie. The icing takes about 30 minutes – 1 hour to dry completely, but in just minutes to top will have begun to set. Once the icing begins to set, your sprinkles will bounce off onto your counter instead of nestling in the icing.
I hope you will find these tips to be helpful for your sugar cookie endeavor. If you have questions, please feel free to ask. I’ll do my best to respond the same day. Enjoy!